What is the legislative process for passing a federal budget?

The legislative process for passing a federal budget in the United States involves several key stages, with Congress playing a central role in crafting, reviewing, and approving the budget.

The process typically spans several months and involves both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Here are the main steps in the legislative process for passing a federal budget:

1. President’s Budget Proposal:

  1. Submission:
    • The process begins with the President submitting a detailed budget proposal to Congress. This usually occurs early in the calendar year, outlining the administration’s spending priorities, revenue projections, and policy goals for the upcoming fiscal year.
  2. Budget Committees:
    • The House Committee on the Budget and the Senate Committee on the Budget play a crucial role in the initial stages. They review the President’s budget proposal and start the process of developing a budget resolution.

2. Budget Resolution:

  1. Budget Committees:
    • The House and Senate Budget Committees work on a budget resolution, which sets overall spending and revenue targets for the federal government. The budget resolution serves as a framework for subsequent appropriations and revenue legislation.
  2. Congressional Approval:
    • The budget resolution must be approved by both chambers of Congress. While it doesn’t have the force of law, it guides the appropriations process and sets the stage for budgetary decisions.

3. Appropriations Process:

  1. Appropriations Committees:
    • The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are responsible for developing appropriations bills that fund government agencies and programs. There are 12 appropriations bills, each corresponding to different areas of government spending.
  2. Subcommittee Action:
    • Appropriations subcommittees within each chamber review and mark up the individual bills, determining funding levels for specific programs and agencies within their jurisdiction.
  3. Floor Consideration:
    • The full House and Senate consider and vote on the appropriations bills. If there are differences between the House and Senate versions, a conference committee may be appointed to reconcile these differences.
  4. Presidential Approval:
    • Once both chambers agree on final versions of the appropriations bills, they are sent to the President for approval. The President can sign the bills into law, veto them, or allow them to become law without a signature.

4. Continuing Resolutions and Omnibus Bills:

  1. Continuing Resolutions:
    • If Congress cannot pass all appropriations bills by the end of the fiscal year (September 30), it may pass a continuing resolution to temporarily fund the government at current levels.
  2. Omnibus Bills:
    • In some cases, Congress may consolidate multiple appropriations bills into an omnibus bill to expedite the budget process.

5. Debt Ceiling:

  1. Legislation to Raise Debt Ceiling:
    • Congress has the authority to set a limit on the amount of money the government can borrow (debt ceiling). When necessary, Congress must pass legislation to raise or suspend the debt ceiling to avoid defaulting on existing obligations.

6. Oversight and Accountability:

  1. Committee Oversight:
    • Congressional committees, especially the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations, conduct oversight to ensure that agencies are using funds as intended and that programs are effective.
  2. Audits and Investigations:
    • Congress may conduct audits, investigations, and hearings to assess the efficiency, effectiveness, and integrity of federal programs and agencies.


The federal budgeting process is a complex and multifaceted undertaking that involves numerous steps, multiple committees, and both chambers of Congress.

The process is designed to ensure thorough review, debate, and approval of the government’s spending priorities for the fiscal year.